Primary science curriculum implementation in Malaysia : inquiry as hope and practice : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Malaysia is gearing towards becoming a fully industrialised country by the year 2020 as envisaged in the nation's 'Vision 2020'. The decline in the number of students taking up science in upper secondary schools over the last decade has caused great concern among many politicians and science educators over the availability of skilled manpower necessary to achieve the nation's vision. Various measures have been introduced to promote students' interest in taking up science, among which was the introduction of an inquiry-based science curriculum for all primary schools in 1995. While understanding of basic scientific concepts continues to be an important goal of the new curriculum, the curriculum also emphasises the development of thinking skills, scientific skills, scientific attitudes and moral values. A qualitative case study methodology was employed to study the status of implementation of the inquiry-based primary science curriculum in two Malaysian schools. The study focused on five experienced teachers each observed teaching a series of lessons on 'Animal Reproduction' to primary four pupils. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to find out the teachers' views and understandings on matters related to science, science teaching and learning, and the science curriculum. Some sense of the science context in the school was established through interviews with the respective head teachers. Documents and records such as school calendars, minutes of meetings, teachers' record books, pupils' science exercise books, and science test papers were also analysed to supplement data collected from classroom observations and interviews. The results of the study reveal that the teachers practised teacher-centred instructional strategies, presenting facts and information directly to the pupils and largely neglecting the aspects of curriculum which deal with the development of skills and attitudes. There was little opportunity for pupils to learn science concepts through practical work and inquiry. Inadequate teacher preparation, poorly designed curriculum materials, an inappropriate assessment system, incongruent socio-cultural context of learning, and lack of professional and organisational support were identified to be among the factors which contributed to the teachers' inability to effectively implement the inquiry-based science curriculum. Appropriate actions need to be urgently taken to rectify these problems. Otherwise, we may be witnessing another generation of science teaching where inquiry learning is simply an espoused aspiration. The vision of developing pupils into the self-reliant, creative and innovative individuals as advocated in the science curriculum remains distant.